Friday, 11 April 2014

Crimean War - locating information

Recent developments with Russia annexing the Crimean Peninsula from the Ukraine has raised interest in the dispute in the area in the mid nineteenth century.

The Crimean War (October 1853-February1856) was fought between the Russians and an unlikely partnership consisting primarily of British, French and Ottoman (Turkish) armies. The Ottoman Empire was in decline and the Russians wanted access to Ottoman territories, particularly to gain  access to the Mediterranean Sea. The British and the French did not want Russia to move into this area especially if it resulted in a risk to shipping through the Mediterranean. There were also disputes about access to religious sites in the area. Most of the battles were fought on the Crimean Peninsula. Major battles and sieges included Sevastopol, Balaklava and Inkerman. The icy winters played a crucial part in the sieges with all the armies suffering from the extreme cold. Major military tactical blunders on both sides were also prevalent during the campaigns in the Crimea. The end of the Siege at Sevastopol on the 8th September 1855 was one such example with the French taking the Malakhov which was their target but the British failing to take the Redan. Some of the British soldiers did succeed in scaling the fortifications but most remained outside refusing to enter, therefore providing no support to those who had breached the walls. Although the Russians later evacuated the city and the Russian naval base at Sevastopol was destroyed, the victory of the French further compounded the embarrassment of the British defeat. The war finally came to an end after the Austrians told the Russians that they would enter the war on the side of the Allies if Russia did not accept an ultimatum by 18 January 1856. Points included freedom for ships of all nations to sail on the Danube and the Black Sea, plus Russia relinquishing the protectorate of Wallachia, Moldavia and Serbia and also over the Orthodox population of the Turkish Empire. Other issues could be raised at a Peace Conference. At the end of the war all parties had suffered severe casualties for only marginal changes to the situation before the war.

The Crimean War was noted for the use of new techniques in warfare including the use of railway and the electric telegraph. Florence Nightingale gained prominence during this period with changes introduced in the treatment of British wounded soldiers. The events of the war were also documented extensively with written reports in newspapers and photographs and other illustrations keeping the public aware of developments.

A number of websites provide a summary of events during the Crimean War. A selection includes:
The National Archives (UK) provides a summary of the events leading up to and during the fighting. The site also contains copies of maps and documents relating to the events.

The Economist (March 18, 2014) provided a summary of events leading to the war while on 24 March 2014 it published an article originally written on 25 March 1854 about the possibilities of war with Russia.

BBC History has an article by Andrew Lambert about the Crimean War.

Many books have been written on the topic. Two books that may currently be available in public libraries are:
Fletcher, Ian and Natalia Ishchinko. (2008) War in the Crimea: an illustrated history
Kerr, Paul et al. (1997) The Crimean War
It is probable that additional material will be available as recent events have probably renewed interest in events that occurred 160 years ago.

As noted earlier, British newspapers carried regular reports about what was happening. Many of these newspapers have now been digitised and can be searched online via databases such as The Times Digital Archive (1785-1985), Nineteenth Century British Newspapers and The British Newspaper Archives. Many libraries subscribe to these databases making the information available to their members.

Trove which includes digitised Australian newspapers is another place to search. Using the advanced search and the term Crimean War limited by the years 1853 to 1856 provided 118 articles. Searching for articles including the term Crimea includes thousands more If interested in a particular battle type the name of the battle - Sevastopol for example - for articles restricted to that topic.

The National Archives UK contains records relating to the Crimean War. It is best to begin with the information sheet explaining what is available in the archive and elsewhere and how to locate the records.

No comments:

Post a Comment